The Man Who Was Almost a Man
In Richard Wright’s “The Man Who Was Almost a Man”, there is only one main character, Dave Saunders, and a handful of secondary characters. Dave Saunders is a seventeen year old, “long, loose-jointed limbed” African-American boy living in what seems like the South, either in Alabama or Louisiana, judging from the fact that the Illinois Central railroad runs through the area where he lives. Dave is struggling with growing up and is trying to achieve a sense of maturity that he is not yet ready for. His idea of being a mature adult is to own a gun, since all the men he works with on the field own one and practice shooting them. He thinks that if he gets one and shoots with the men, they will accept him as one of their own. Dave is the only round character in this short story since he is the only character whose thoughts we, the audience, are able to read. By reading his thoughts, we gain insight on his feelings and mental state. Dave seems to be fascinated with brute strength and power, which he sees as the only way to gain status in society. He isn’t a normal type of character looking to find his place in society by being murderous. Most of those characters know exactly what they are doing and have foresight to the consequences of their actions. Dave is unique because in his mind, owning the gun is a rite of passage straight into adulthood, without any sacrifices normal people make. He lacks any such foresight. As a result of being a round character, Dave is also dynamic. This is evidenced by the fact that in the beginning, Dave’s feeling is that acquiring a gun will usher him straight into manhood, but at the end, Dave realizes that it will take a lot more to become a man than just owning a gun, but he still holds the gun as a central part in his future. Who knows what he will do with it, but I can see a life of crime for young Dave Saunders.
Next is Mrs. Saunders, Dave’s mother, who is a flat, static character. The only thing that makes her notable is she is Dave’s voice of reason in the story, which he chooses to disregard. She plays a supporting role in allowing Dave to buy the gun, but it still very much against letting Dave have it. She undergoes no changes, since she is as much against the gun at the end of the story as she is when Dave pesters her for it towards the beginning.
The list of other minor, flat and static characters would include Mr. Hawkins, Joe at the store, Mr. Saunders and perhaps even Jenny the mule. I included Jenny because she is not just a part of the setting, but a victim of Dave’s selfish and immature pursuit of maturity.
“The Man Who Was Almost a Man” follows the normal plot design of a short story, going through an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and ending in the resolution.
The exposition starts with the first line of the story and runs all the way to when Dave’s mother allows him to get the gun. In the exposition, we learn about what is troubling Dave and what his plans are to address his problem. He wants to acquire a gun to show the men in the fields that he is no longer a boy. He stops by Joe’s store, where he is offered a gun for $2. He goes home thinking only about the gun. He figures he’d have better luck getting the money from his mother, so he waits for a time when he can get her alone. After pestering her, she finally gives in, but tells Dave he can only bring it right back. This is where the exposition ends and the rising action begins.
The rising action begins with Dave choosing not to bring the gun right back home like his mother told him to. Instead, he stays out until he knows everyone’s asleep, pretending to shoot it the whole while. He hides it under his pillow and when his mother comes in to retrieve it, he lies and tells her he hid it outside and will give it to her in the morning. That morning, he wakes up earlier than everyone and leaves the house with the gun, heading over to...
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